Rediscovering Don Freeman

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I had to come all the way to San Francisco to have a renewed appreciation for the illustrations of Don Freeman. 

After taking a few cable car rides, exploring Fisherman’s Wharf and going on a walking tour of downtown San Francisco, I finally made it to City Lights, the city’s best known independent bookstore.  Naturally, I went right to the children’s section (a quite small one, by the way) and right next to Virginia Lee Burton’s classic picture book, Maybelle the Cable Car, was a book I didn’t know by an illustrator I did – Don Freeman.  Freeman’s most famous character, Corduroy, is popular in our school library, and I’ve always been a big fan of Norman the Doorman, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I did not know his 1957 Caldecott Honor Book, Fly High, Fly Low

What a wonderful discovery!  Freeman’s color picture drawings of San Francisco are lovely.  There is a double-page spread of the city – the Golden Gate Bridge, a cable car (Maybelle?), and Coit Tower which makes me think of Freeman as a more serious artist than I had before.  The back of the book says that Freeman, who made his living as a New York jazz musician, began to devote all of his attention to art after losing his trumpet on a subway train.  If that’s the case, it’s the first time I’ve felt grateful that someone lost their musical  instrument. 

On a completely different note — while riding a cable car today, I saw a laundromat with a perfect name: The Missing Sock.  Isn’t that great!   Tomorrow, it’s off to Muir Woods.  They should have a good bookshop there…


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